Macroscopic aspects of attosecond pulse generation
Attosecond pulses are generated by a macroscopic number of ionizing atoms interacting with a focused laser pulse, via the process of high harmonic generation. The physics of their generation consists of an interplay between the microscopic laser-atom interaction and macroscopic effects due to ionization and phase matching in the nonlinear medium. In this review, we focus on a complete understanding of the way in which attosecond pulses arrive at a target where they can be characterized and used in an experiment. We discuss a number of results from calculations of attosecond pulse generation obtained by simultaneous solution of the time-dependent Schrödinger equation and the Maxwell wave equation. These results, which allow for a clean separation of microscopic and macroscopic factors, illustrate how macroscopic effects are used to select attosecond pulses from the radiation that is emitted by atoms interacting with a strong laser field. © 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd.